28 July 2003
U.S. Targets Alien Smuggling Organizations Linked to Terrorists
New strategic global plan in development, official
The U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (BICE)
reports an increasing linkage between alien smuggling organizations
and terrorist organizations since September 11, 2001.
"(T)errorists and their associates are likely to align themselves
with specific alien smuggling networks to obtain undetected entry
into the United States," said Charles H. Demore, interim assistant
director of investigations at BICE, in testimony before the Senate
Judiciary Committee July 25.
Terrorists and human smugglers are combining their efforts for
three reasons, Demore said: the growing number and sophistication
of criminal organizations, their ability to exploit public corruption,
and the weak immigration controls in many source and transit countries.
"Consequently, BICE is developing a strategy that will address
alien smuggling and human trafficking at the national and international
levels," Demore said. "The global Anti-Smuggling/Human Trafficking
Strategy will concentrate our efforts in intelligence-driven investigations
against major violators, specifically targeting organizations with
ties to countries that support terrorist organizations such as
BICE is a newly created agency within the Department of Homeland
Security and Demore said its new structure will provide more effective
means to target and disrupt criminal organizations involved in
human trafficking and alien smuggling.
Following is the text of Demore's testimony as prepared for delivery:
United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Alien Smuggling/Human Trafficking: Sending a Meaningful Message
July 25, 2003
Mr. Charles Demore, Interim Assistant Director of Investigations
Department of Homeland Security
MR. CHAIRMAN AND MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE, thank you for the opportunity
today to address you regarding the efforts of the Bureau of Immigration
and Customs Enforcement (BICE) to combat the smuggling of aliens
into the United States. I am Charles DeMore, the Interim Assistant
Director of Investigations and I am pleased to have the opportunity
to share my experience and knowledge with you regarding this important
The creation of the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS),
and specifically BICE, combined legal authorities and investigative
tools to effectively combat organized human smuggling and trafficking
by investigating and administratively prosecuting immigration violations
related to criminal organizations involved in smuggling, transporting,
and harboring of aliens; money laundering; racketeering violations;
human trafficking and child forced labor provisions. In addition,
the new BICE structure provides a more effective means of dismantling
and disrupting the criminal activities of these organizations,
with tools such as financial and data analysis, telecommunication
intercepts, and air and marine interdiction capabilities. However,
no enforcement effort would be complete without the cooperation
and collaboration of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection
(BCBP). I am pleased to tell you that we are fully engaged with
our partners in both BCBP and other DHS components in combating
I would like to begin by providing an important clarification
and necessary distinction between the terms alien smuggling and
human trafficking. Alien smuggling and human trafficking, while
sharing certain elements and attributes and overlapping in some
cases, are distinctively different offenses. Human trafficking,
specifically what U.S. law defines as "severe forms of trafficking
in persons" involves (unless the victims are minors trafficked
into sexual exploitation) force, fraud or coercion, and occurs
for the purpose of forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.
Alien smuggling is an enterprise that produces short-term profits
resulting from one-time fees paid by or on the behalf of migrants
smuggled. Trafficking enterprises rely on forced labor or commercial
sexual exploitation of the victim to produce profits over the long-term
and the short-term.
Smugglees are willing to risk potential death seeking their dream
and are normally free to seek it once they reach their final destination.
On the other hand, we know that trafficking victims find themselves
in a servitude arrangement that does not end once they have reached
their destination, and further may find themselves moved from one
destination to another against their will.
Human smuggling has become a lucrative international criminal
enterprise and continues to grow in the United States. This trade
generates an enormous amount of money -- globally, an estimated
$9.5 billion per year. The commodities involved in this illicit
trade are men, women, and children. Traffickers or smugglers transport
undocumented migrants into the U.S. for work in licit, semi-illicit
and illicit industries. The traffickers' foremost goal, like the
smuggler, is to maximize profits. The sale and distribution of
smuggled humans in the U.S. is a global, regional, and national
phenomenon. Women and children are trafficked short distances within
the U.S. (small towns to bigger cities), as well as coming from
as far away as China, Ukraine and Thailand.
The U.S. Department of State has estimated that at any given time,
there are hundreds of thousands of people in the smuggling pipeline,
being warehoused by smugglers, waiting for new routes to open up
or documents to become available -- and their primary target is
the United States.
While human trafficking cases have attracted media attention,
the loss of life in an alien smuggling case is no less tragic.
To illustrate the callous disregard smugglers have for human life
I would like to provide you with the details of some tragic incidents
involving deaths (noting that some of these smuggling cases may
be trafficking cases as well):
Iowa -- In October 2002, 11 undocumented aliens were found dead
in a covered grain car near Dennison, IA. It was determined that
they had been smuggled and their bodies trapped in the grain car
for four months. This crime is the subject of an ongoing investigation.
Texas -- In May 2003, 17 undocumented aliens were found dead inside
a tractor-trailer in Victoria, Texas. Four hours into their 300-mile
trip to Houston, oxygen ran out in their dark, sealed, hot, airless
trailer. These aliens had beat their way through the trailer taillights
in a desperate attempt to signal for help. Within 72 hours of the
discovery, the collective efforts of Special Agents and intelligence
analysts from BICE, our counterparts in the Bureau of Customs and
Border Protection, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Victoria
County District Attorney's Office, the United States Secret Service,
and the Victoria County Sheriff's Office, led to the identification
and arrest of four defendants in Ohio and Texas. As of July 17,
2003, a total of fourteen defendants have been charged with various
smuggling-related crimes arising from this tragic incident. The
successes that we achieved in this operation are a direct result
of fully integrating BICE special agents and other personnel, equipment
and methodologies into a unified law enforcement effort. Still,
the smugglers remain undaunted by the tragedy. They continue to
use sealed railroad cars and tractor-trailers to move illegal aliens
through the South Texas smuggling corridor. In fact, only days
after the grisly discovery in Victoria, Texas, 16 other migrants
were discovered in a tractor trailer only an hour away.
Washington -- In January 2000, three undocumented aliens were
found dead in the cargo container of a vessel in Seattle, WA. The
three were part of a group of eighteen smuggled Chinese aliens
that had been sealed in the container for a period of two weeks.
The survivors, who were in dire medical condition, remained in
the container with the deceased until their discovery.
California -- In March 2000, six undocumented aliens were found
in the San Diego east county mountains, four of which died due
to hypothermia. The smugglers abandoned the group in the snowy
mountains as the aliens pleaded not to be stranded.
Florida -- In December 2001, a capsized vessel was found in the
Florida Straits, alleged to have been carrying 41 Cuban nationals,
including women and children. All are believed to have perished
New York -- In June 1993, the Golden Venture, a vessel that had
traveled 17,000 miles in 112 days from China, ran aground off the
coast of Queens in New York City. The human cargo suffered subhuman
living conditions during the voyage with inadequate food and ventilation.
Most of the 286 people jumped into the frigid Atlantic Ocean, 10
of whom drowned.
Arizona -- In 2002, 133 deaths were recorded relating to alien
smuggling loads in the Arizona deserts. Tragically, many of these
deaths were due to aliens being abandoned and lost in the desert
heat, but some of these deaths were homicides. The BICE Phoenix
Special-Agent-in-Charge is currently involved in an investigation
in which as many as 13 homicides have been attributed to alien
smuggling. Several of the deceased were undocumented aliens who
were unable to pay their smuggling fees. Local law enforcement
agencies attribute most of the increase of violent crime, hostage
taking, and home invasions in Arizona as being related to alien
As you can see, alien smuggling is not confined to any geographic
region; it is a problem of national scope, which requires a coordinated
national response. BICE is developing a foreign and domestic strategy,
which includes the implementation of critical incident response
teams. The purpose of these investigative teams is simple and effective:
begin the investigation of a critical incident as quickly as possible,
assembling the broad spectrum of technical and subject matter expertise
that is needed to solve complex investigations.
The teams will consist of Special Agents drawn from BICE assets
who possess specialized skills in the full constellation of investigative
techniques; language and cultural skills, land, air and maritime
smuggling, crime scene management, technical operations and forensics.
BICE Victim-Witness Coordinators would supplement the teams as
needed. This investigative response will be coordinated at a proposed
BICE Smuggling Coordination Center utilizing resources and equipment
deployed in key geographic areas nationwide.
Increased efforts are also being placed on addressing the smuggling
of juveniles into the United States, which has surged in recent
years. This increase is driven by the demand created by U.S. citizens
wanting to illegally adopt children from abroad, immigrants attempting
to reunite their families, and child exploitation. Mexican consulates
in Southern Arizona alone handled more than 1,500 repatriations
of unaccompanied Mexican juveniles during the first half of 2002.
In contrast to the smuggling of family members, trafficked children
are often lured by promises of education, a new skill or a good
job; other children are kidnapped outright, taken from their home
villages or towns and then bought and sold as commodities. Attracted
by enormous profits and minimal risks, criminal organizations at
all levels of sophistication are involved in the trafficking of
children as human cargo across international borders for sexual
exploitation and forced labor.
The fall of communism, coupled with the deteriorating third world
economies, has fueled the dramatic rise of this sinister form of
commerce. Additionally, international organized crime groups such
as the Chinese Triads; Japanese Yakuza; Russian, Albanian, Georgian,
Ukrainian, Polish, Nigerian, and Thai criminal networks have also
capitalized on weak economies; corruption, and improved international
transportation infrastructure in order to facilitate the smuggling
and trafficking of some 700,000 to 2,000,000 people globally each
year. Some of these organizations have abandoned their historic
ethnic alliances to join together in criminal enterprises and to
hinder U.S. Government law enforcement efforts.
The national and international enforcement environment changed
significantly after the September 11 attacks. BICE places a significant
emphasis on targeting alien smuggling organizations that present
threats to national security. This emphasis recognizes that terrorists
and their associates are likely to align themselves with specific
alien smuggling networks to obtain undetected entry into the United
States. In addition to the emerging terrorist threat, three factors
have created an environment in which terrorists and smuggling enterprises
may combine their criminal efforts to pose a significant national
and international threat. These factors are: 1) The involved criminal
organizations growing volume and sophistication, 2) Their ability
to exploit public corruption; and, 3) Lax immigration controls
in source and transit countries.
As in our war on terrorism, the most effective means of addressing
these issues is by attacking the problem in source and transit
countries thereby preventing entry into the United States. For
many years, we have recognized the need to identify and dismantle
large-scale trans-national smuggling organizations and have done
so in collaboration with other law enforcement agencies, both foreign
and domestic. And we have served as co-chair, with the Department
of Justice and the Central Intelligence Agency, to an interagency
working group on smuggling targeting criminal organizations that
present national security concerns for the United States. In the
aftermath of September 11 and in concert with the intelligence
community, we redirected our efforts to focus on smuggling organizations
alleged to smuggle aliens who have ties with terrorists groups.
Consequently, BICE is developing a strategy that will address alien
smuggling and human trafficking at the national and international
levels. The global Anti-Smuggling/Human Trafficking Strategy will
concentrate our efforts in intelligence-driven investigations against
major violators, specifically targeting organizations with ties
to countries that support terrorist organizations such as al Queda.
Members of this Subcommittee have previously raised the issue
of the need for enhancing the penalties for smuggling offenses.
While we believe the penalties set forth in section 274 of the
Immigration and Nationality Act to be adequate, in practice the
sentences imposed in cases have traditionally been quite short.
Sentencing enhancements mandated by the Illegal Immigration Reform
and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 have, however, resulted
in significant increases in sentences imposed in the past few years.
We look forward to working with this Committee in our efforts
to save lives and secure our national interests. I hope my remarks
today have been informative and helpful to each of you in understanding
the complexity surrounding these issues. I thank you for inviting
me to testify and I will be glad to answer any questions you may
have at this time.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs,
U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)